Friday, April 13, 2012

JK Rowling's Crime Novel

The book world is, apparently, abuzz with the news that JK Rowling's first adult book is going to be a crime novel called The Casual Vacancy. This is how the Guardian broke the news:
The Casual Vacancy, perhaps the most hotly anticipated book of the year, will be published on 27 September and is set in a small town called Pagford, described by her new publisher Little, Brown as an English idyll "with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey". The story is set in motion by the unexpected demise of Barry Fairweather, a stalwart of the town's parish council who dies in his early forties. Pagford's chocolate-box façade hides a town riven with strife, and the struggle to replace Fairweather "becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen", with "teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils," the publisher said. 
As the election to find his replacement unleashes "passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations", the novel puts Pagford's rivalries under the microscope. There had been speculation that Rowling might be entering the genre of hard-boiled Edinburgh crime fiction after discovering that her editor, David Shelley, counts Dennis Lehane, Val McDermid, Carl Hiaasen and Mark Billingham among his authors.
I don't know about you but this is not the novel I'm most anticipating this year (that would probably be the new Iain M Banks culture book) but I'm certainly not going to diss this work before it comes out. It does however seem very Barchester Towers to me and I have to say that Trollope's shoes are big shoes to fill. I'm also alarmed that Ms Rowling still thinks names like Fairweather are a good idea. I wonder if the villains will have names like Slimeweasel and Grindstone. Silly give the game away names are fine in childrens books but we expect better in the crime fiction world. I wonder too if the cliche of the English village with sinister goings on underneath wasn't already exploded by Agatha Christie circa 1925. In fact this trope had become so worn out by 1932 (!) that Stella Gibbons was able to parody it in her excellent novel Cold Comfort Farm. It's also the plot of pretty much every Barbara Pym book and the trope even got the Hollywood treatment in Hot Fuzz. Anyway we shall see. I will await her book and give it a fair review. I wont however be tugging my forelock just because Rowling is the most powerful author in the book business.